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Was Last Year Really The Worst For Celebrity Deaths?

There's no denying that the Grim Reaper had a busy year in 2016, but was it the worst year for celebrity deaths in modern history?

The year began with David Bowie succumbing to cancer in January and ended with the equally unexpected deaths of George Michael and Carrie Fisher at Christmastime. And there was at least one significant death almost every month, including To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee (February), Beatles producer George Martin (March), pop icon Prince (April), boxing sensation Muhammad Ali (June), Willy Wonka actor Gene Wilder (August) and folk legend Leonard Cohen (November).

As gut-wrenching as that list is, other years have arguably been worse. And our perceptions of 2016 might be skewed by our saturation in social media, where there always seems to be a "celebrity mournathon" going on. But we'll let you decide for yourself after checking out five other contenders for the un-coveted title as the worst year for celebrity deaths.

1. 2005

johnny carson

Just over a decade ago, people around the world mourned the deaths of talkshow legend Johnny Carson (79), playwright Arthur Miller (89), Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson (67), comedian Mitch Hedberg (37), Pope John Paul II (84), civil rights icon Rosa Parks (92), standup legend Richard Pryor (65) and others.

2. 1980

John lennon

Twenty-five years earlier, the world was shaken up by the untimely deaths of Beatle John Lennon (40), Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham (32) and AC/DC frontman Bon Scott. Joining them were auteur/director Alfred Hitchcock (80), action star Steve McQueen (50), comedian Peter Sellers (54), Olympian Jessie Owens (66), fast food tycoon Colonel Sanders (90) and more.

3. 1977

Elvis presley

Three years earlier, music fans were mourning the deaths of rock king Elvis Presley (42), glam rocker Marc Bolan (29) and crooner Bing Crosby (74). That year also saw the deaths of Marx Brothers Groucho (86) and Gummo (84), screen legends Charlie Chaplin (88), Joan Crawford (uncertain age), and novelist Vladimir Nabokov (78).

4. September 1970 - August 1971

Jimi hendrix

Alright, this one's a bit of a stretch since we're talking about a 12-month period, not a calendar year. But we'd be remiss to overlook the significance of the untimely deaths of Jimi Hendrix (Sept. 18, 1970) Janis Joplin (Oct. 4, 1970) and Jim Morrison (Jul. 3, 1971).

The passing of all three rockers at the age of 27 cemented the myth of the Forever 27 Club, which also includes Rolling Stones co-founder Brian Jones, grunge pioneer Kurt Cobain and English singer/songwriter Amy Winehouse.

5. 1959

Buddy Holly

February 3, 1959 will always be remembered as The Day the Music Died thanks to singer Don McLean. His 1971 rock anthem American Pie mourned that fateful day when rock pioneer Buddy Holly (22), rising star Ritchie Valens (17) and rockabilly star The Big Bopper (28) died in a plane crash.

That year also saw the deaths of jazz icon Billie Holiday (44), comic legend Lou Costello (52) of Abbott and Costello, film pioneer Cecil B. DeMille (77), American architecture giant Frank Lloyd Wright (91) and others.

Banner image: A shrine to David Bowie in Brixton, London. (Chris Dorney/Shutterstock)


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